Friday, June 12, 2020

Technical Writer Job Description

After a year at EOS-North America in additive manufacturing ("3D printing"), I accepted a new contract with a state agency. The EOS-NA human resources department asked me for a job description. You can find  boilerplate online; and that is often what I respond to in Help Wanted ads. Those cut-and-paste lists tell me that the people doing the hiring have no clue what is involved. For example, they often ask for a college degree in communication. To me, that's the degree for podcasters.

Here is a general description of what I did as  your technical writer. It is an outline of who I am and what I brought to the job. What you want to avoid is looking for another person just like the one you lost. You are not replacing a part in a machine. You are bringing in a family member. Your next technical writer could be a science talented high school student.

A technical writer has a demonstrated history of professional non-fiction writing. The preferred experience is in creating user manuals for information systems. That documentation can be intended for final users, such as clerical or automation workers. It can also be system documentation intended for programmers or engineers. Related experience can include journalism, academic research, advertising or feature writing for online or print media.

Common tools include the Microsoft Office Suite, especially Word, but also Excel, PowerPoint, Paint, and Visio. Experience with desktop publishing can include Microsoft Publisher, Adobe Creative Suite (or Adobe Creative Cloud) or Madcap Flare. Adobe has been aggressive in acquiring other companies such as FrameMaker, InDesign, and PageMaker. So, an experienced writer could have used those before they were elements of the Adobe package. All of the current documentation was created with Microsoft Office. It resides as Microsoft Word documents.

The important benchmarks are measurable. The current EOS-NA User Manual runs 234 pages, 27,000 words; and it reads at a ninth grade level with 8% passive-voice sentences.

A technical writer interviews subject matter experts, usually by email, though often in person, to get specific answers to complex or subtle questions. A technical writer works with new systems as a tester, taking the user viewpoint as an involved but uninformed participant.

For this job at EOS-NA in Pflugerville, knowledge of factory production and factory automation, including both mechanical and electronic systems, as well as basic physics and chemistry are also helpful. Important as all of those can be, they are secondary to being inquisitive, curious, and persistent in the pursuit of measurable facts.

Facility with a camera, whether single-lens-reflex or a cell phone, is important. Being able to generate flow charts and other logic diagrams is also a key component of this job. Much of the graphical work consists of manipulating, enhancing, and annotating screenshots.

The job demands the ability to ensure that terminology is correct and consistent across all publications.

The technical writer is a Team of One. Mindful of the needs of the company and its customers, the technical writer sets their own intermediate goals and meets their own incremental deadlines.

Hope that helps.
Best Regards,
Mike M.

Michael E. Marotta
Senior Technical Writer | EOS North America
3813 Helios Way, Suite B298 | Pflugerville, TX 78660
Office +1 512.388.7916 | Mobile +1 734.223.9054


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